By Kelly R. Young
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and changed the way we work, learn, live, and play.
Prevalent in education is the significant shift to online learning. Although this shift has been a growing trend for years (we have been teaching online courses for nearly a decade at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy), we have certainly seen a significant increase in online learning during the pandemic.
While there are downsides, there are also many doors being opened and experiences gained by students who are embracing online learning; opportunities and benefits other students may not gain in the traditional classroom setting.
Let’s look at the area of getting ready for the workplace. Online learning can provide students with valuable skills that will help prepare them for a competitive workplace. Today’s employers look for individuals who demonstrate these skills and attributes: 1) self-motivation, 2) time management, 3) adaptability, and 4) clear communication. These traits–and more–can be gained through online learning.
For the most part, online students are learning on their own. There’s no pressure to actually show up to a physical classroom or even see the instructor in person. This requires the student to stay motivated and practice self-discipline to be successful.
These qualities are attractive and valuable to an employer who often wants a self-motivated employee who doesn’t require constant handholding or reminders about tasks that need to be completed. Self-motivation and accountability, once conquered, are remarkable skills to possess in the workforce. And life.
Time is one of those things we just can’t get enough of. It is possible to manage time; it just means working more efficiently. By being in control of their own learning and pace, online students are figuring out how to effectively manage their time.
Employers in every industry are looking for employees who can make optimal use of the time available to them on the job. How often have we heard the phrase “time is money?” Saving time means saving an organization money, resulting in increased revenue; something all businesses want to achieve.
In a traditional academic environment, schedules and assignments are coordinated, structured, and predictable. Online learning provides more flexibility, but that flexibility may be marred by chaos. Unreliable internet connections, unplanned interruptions, and unforeseen changes in work and home-life schedules are just a few challenges that an online learner must quickly pivot and adjust to.
Being adaptable demonstrates the ability to manage change, be resourceful, shows analytical skills, and emphasizes leadership capabilities. These are all valuable qualities in an employee.
Through online learning, students develop a wider set of communication skills that are transferable to the workplace. Without in-person interaction, online students are learning to communicate more clearly–and with purpose–using emails, video and web conferencing, and online chat services. A strong array of communication skills is critical when delivering information quickly, accurately, and professionally.
These are only a few ways in which students can see long-term benefits from an extended online educational experience. There are myriad other benefits, including becoming comfortable utilizing new technologies, viewing the world as a more limitless access space to connecting with people, and mastering new, invaluable personal and professional skills.
While we all look forward to the time when we can collaborate and learn in person, there are silver linings to be found in difficult times that will better prepare students for their bright future.
Kelly Young, president of Baise Communications, is an award-winning public relations counselor with 25+ years of experience in working with nonprofit and small businesses. She has worked in nearly every capacity of public relations throughout her career and has a proven track record of success in media relations, social media, brand management, communications planning, and community relations. She has built a strong reputation within the community and is sought after for her industry expertise and thought leadership. Kelly is a natural storyteller and an enthusiastic advocate for causes.